Tech Pundit Sneers At Your Online Privacy Concerns

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While the public outcry about Facebook’s complicated privacy tools recently pushed the company to simplify its user interface, at least one industry insider believes that peoples’ concerns are overblown and that, for all the hype and media coverage, the vast majority of users don’t seem to care.

In a blog post for Ad Age, Josh Bernoff, Senior Vice President of Idea Development at Forrester Research, challenges readers to name “one company of a significant size whose business suffered due to its treatment of people’s private data.”

He goes on to point out that while companies like Facebook “pay lip service to being concerned about privacy,” there’s no real reason for them to make substantive changes, since “a small number of verbal people whine, but very few leave.”

But Facebook changed, changed … actually, they changed very little. Hmm, maybe Bernoff’s onto something.

In the AdAge column, Bernoff states:

In the online world, I can’t name a single significant company that had a problem. They pay lip service to being concerned about privacy, but, in fact, a small number of verbal people whine, but very few leave. If a site is useful, most people (not you, the smart readers of this blog, but average everyday people) vaguely wonder about what happened, but won’t give up their site.

So let’s take this context and apply it to Facebook. We’ve had multiple revisions of the privacy policy. We’ve had CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying that privacy is no longer a social norm. And we’ve had web searches on how to leave Facebook trending. But still, Zuckerberg says not many people are leaving.

Bernoff argues that companies like Facebook need to err on the side of making their service — and their business — valuable, and if that means compromising on privacy, the vast majority of customers won’t care: “Because while few will admit it, Zuckerberg might be right — privacy isn’t much of a norm any more.”

However, there are some people who do care about privacy, and Bernoff has tracked them to their Washington, DC, lair: “Regulation would cause lots more problems than a few members leaving. This is the real battle to watch, and the one that was probably quite persuasive in getting Zuckerberg to change his tune.”

So, if you’re concerned about privacy, you know who to call, and it’s not Mark Zuckerberg. Or Josh Bernoff.

No One Really Cares About Facebook’s Privacy Flap — Except Congress [Ad Age]